They were to be cousins Angela and Denise Cromwell from Carson City, Nevada. Shania, “Angela,” would be an only child who spent her life doing odd jobs. Lauren, “Denise,” would have a brother whose photography studio she would work at for years until he decided to close shop and move to Florida.
“Do I look like a Denise?” Lauren asked with a chuckle.
Shania studied her, then said, “I don’t know. I guess so. I’m not very good at putting names to faces. How about me? Do I look like an Angela to you?”
“I’d say so. It’s a lovely name and you’re a lovely girl, so yes, I’d say you do, but I also like Shania. Perhaps we should take Melanie’s advice and use our aliases so it becomes a habit with us.”
“Yeah, we should. And no talking about our real lives when others are around unless we talk too soft for them to hear.”
Upon paying for a full month’s stay, they were moved to a room that had a king-size bed, a desk by the internet hookup, and a kitchenette complete with a refrigerator, stove, and microwave.
Shania was glad to find that the bathroom, which was situated between the main room and the kitchen, had a tub. “Good. Now I can take those bubble baths I miss so much once the cast is off,” she said excitedly. “Oh, the things you miss when you’re locked up.”
“I’ll bet it must really make those little everyday things seem all the more special,” Lauren said with a smile, pleased to see Shania happy after the months of depression, anger, frustration and utter helplessness she had so endured.
Shania’s cast was removed a few days later. The arm was weak and discolored, though she was assured that the discoloration would soon clear up and that it would get stronger the more she used it.
They bought some groceries, a cheap pan and pot set, plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, silverware and other utensils, and began avoiding dining out altogether. They only allowed themselves weekly treats from the nearby convenience store.
They also got some clothes they knew they would need. They playfully debated over the color of one shirt in particular which Lauren had gotten.
“It’s blue,” Shania insisted.
“No, it’s not,” countered Lauren. “It’s green.”
With that, Lauren had found an online site that tested for color blindness and had Shania take the test.
“You passed,” Lauren said with a degree of shock a few minutes later.
“Yeah, with flying colors!”
The two erupted in laughter that lasted for hours that night.
Lauren got a job at a company that made computer cables about six miles from the motel which would mean she would take the bus to and from work. However, it wouldn’t be long before they saved up a few hundred dollars and could buy an old car. It was a used, beat-up piece of junk, but it got them where they needed to go once they bought a few parts for it. Shania was glad that Lauren’s dad had taught her a lot about fixing cars.
Shania got a part-time job at the convenience store within walking distance of the motel. None of the surrounding motels were in need of a housekeeper.
“I could use you in a couple of weeks,” Serena had told her. “The woman I’ve got cleaning for me right now is going to be moving, so perhaps you could take over for her when she does.”
Shania agreed to return then if things didn’t work out at the store. But the store did work out well enough, so she decided to stick with it, even if it meant a little more contact with others than she’d like. The store also had a gas station, so she wasn’t exactly working alone. An eighteen-year-old boy named Darren worked the pumps while she worked inside. She liked Darren and often had pleasant chats with him during their breaks. He was saving up to move to southern California and had many questions for her regarding it when she accidentally slipped and told him she was from there. She had never been a good liar, so this new life as an only child from Nevada didn’t come that easily and naturally to her.
Soon enough, she and Lauren fell into a comfortable routine. They worked during the day, returned to the motel room to cook their dinner, then enjoyed a leisurely evening of reading, watching TV, and sometimes just browsing on the internet. They usually reserved the last hour of their day as well as the weekends for their intimacy.
Shania’s days off were the hardest. Especially when Lauren had to work. During these times she would want to be outdoors doing something, even if it was just taking a leisurely stroll.
All was running smoothly until a rather mysterious knock on the door occurred one evening just as the two were finishing up their dinner.
Shania looked warily at Lauren. “Who do you suppose that could be?”
“Don’t know, but I better go check.”
“No!” Shania exclaimed in a hushed whisper as she grabbed hold of Lauren’s arm. “What if it’s the cops? What if they’ve found us?”
“Then they’ll make the owners open the door. There’s simply no way out if it is them, Shania. The worst that can happen is they haul us in tonight, we get out on bail tomorrow, and then we relocate. Now just try to stay calm.” Lauren walked over to the door and asked who it was.
“Who is it?” she asked again.
Still no answer.
Shania felt her heart skip a beat.
Lauren peered through the peephole in the door.
“If no one’s there or willing to answer, don’t open the door,” Shania told her.
They waited a few moments in silence, each breathing nervously. But the knocking didn’t reoccur.
“What in the world do you suppose that was all about?” asked Shania.
“I have no idea.”
“It’s almost as if something’s teasing us with our freedom. Next year seems so far away from now. Do you think we can make it?”
“I hope so,” said Lauren. “I certainly hope so.”
Maureen entered the building in a hurry. Again she was late. Damn the power failures they’d been having lately! She would have to invest in a battery-operated alarm clock as a backup. Miss Daly was sore enough at her these days as it was.
As she flung open the door, her shoe caught in a wad of gum just outside of it, causing her to step out of the shoe. “Shit,” she muttered as her coworkers giggled.
She pushed the door back open and grabbed her shoe just as Miss Daily stepped out of her office. “Well, well,” she said, hands on her hips. “Look who finally decided to drop by.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Daly,” Maureen said, feebly attempting to defend herself. “The power went off during the night and…”
“Maureen, I’ve heard it enough. In my office. Right now.”
“Oooh,” taunted Tim and the new bitch Miss Daly had hired to replace Shania.
She threw them a nasty look, fumbled to get her shoe back on, and followed Miss Daly to her office. As soon as they were in it, Maureen tried again to reason with her no-nonsense boss. “Miss Daly, I…”
“Save it, Maureen. Just save it because you’re fired.”
Maureen stilled and blinked in surprise. She was stunned, totally caught off guard. She expected a reprimand, yes, or even a write-up, but to be fired?
“You’re firing me?”
“That’s what I said,” Miss Daly said curtly. “I don’t know what to think anymore as to whether or not you were really threatened by Shania or if you were behind her being confined at Lakeview, but I do know this – your job performance sucks. It totally sucks. If you’re not late, I catch you slacking off, gabbing on the phone, filing your nails, snacking on munchies, doing anything and everything on company time. I’ve given you plenty of warnings and plenty of chances, yet I’m now left with no choice but to let you go. I only put up with you this long because I felt you needed a break after losing your baby and then your uncle.”
Maureen’s shock turned to simmering rage. Her beady eyes narrowed and glinted dangerously. “Oh, how kind of you, you twisted bitch from hell,” she hissed in a soft yet menacing voice.
Miss Daly froze, wide-eyed, staring Maureen straight on. Fireworks darted from her eyes as she said, “Get out. Get out now!”
“No problem, you mean old witch! I don’t need your damn job anyway. The only reason I stood here this long was that I had nothing better to do, but now I have much, much more important and better things to do. I’m going to find Shania. She escaped, you know, and I’m going to find that little sicko and make her pay for what she’s done because if it wasn’t for that sick sack of shit, my uncle would still be alive and so would my unborn child, even if I never did want to assume the kind of responsibility a child would bring and give up my freedom anyway.”
Miss Daly continued to stare at her.
“As for you, you little dominatrix…”
Miss Daly sprung to her feet. “Get out right this instant or I’ll call the police.”
“Fine, call them,” Maureen challenged nonchalantly as she turned to leave. “Call them all you want. They can’t touch me. I assure you I’m quite invincible when it comes to Miss Shania McCarthy.”